ECB is looking for grounds with hotels as part of the venue to ensure safety of all involved. © Getty
The ECB is aiming to deliver “gold standard” bio-secure environments for international cricket to take place in this summer, Steve Elworthy, the man responsible for delivering the plans, has said.
Although government go-ahead for international cricket in England and Wales is yet to be obtained, Elworthy confirmed that nearly every other aspect of the ECB’s preparations are at an advanced stage and they remain confident that the West Indies will arrive in the UK on June 9 in preparation for a three-match Test series beginning in July.
“From a planning point of view we have got everything in place,” Elworthy said. “We’re ready for it, but clearly we don’t want to stray outside of government guidelines and government decision-making. We’re working very closely with them and hoping we are going to get some answers from them today.”
Elworthy provided details of how behind closed doors cricket would work in practice, including the type of venues required and some of the medical protocols that will be in place for all those required to deliver the games. The ECB stopped short, however, of confirming the specific grounds which will be used for the matches or the schedule of matches that has been drafted.
In terms of venues, the ECB will be using a three venue model with two of the grounds used for matches and the third for training. For example, the plan is for Pakistan to arrive in the UK during England’s Test series against West Indies and they will need a secure venue to practice to prepare outside of the match venues.
Although the specific grounds have not yet been confirmed, the three expected to be used are Old Trafford, the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and Edgbaston. Elowrthy said the venue criteria the ECB were looking for included grounds with hotels as part of the venue or very close by, enough space to allow for social distancing within changing rooms and media facilities as well as parking space for around 200 cars so people don’t have to use public transport.
“The rational of going to that [three venue model] from a medical plan point of view is to reduce the movement of people,” he said. “Clearly, reducing the amount people move would reduce the mitigate the risk of infection. It would also reduce significantly the number of people required to deliver matches because we would only be in two venues to deliver these. We wouldn’t have to move different infrastructure and people around the country and cost is an element of that.”
Elworthy estimates that between 180 and 250 people will be required to deliver the matches within the “bubble” as he calls it. Each person will be tested for Covid-19 prior to entering the bio-secure venue and will have to complete a health questionnaire too. There will also be regular thermal scanning and deep cleaning in place. People will be restricted to different zones within the grounds, with the players and officials being in one zone and other personnel in another.
“There would be zoning in each of the venues and that is really to reduce the interactions or the crossover of people in the inner core or in the green zone, if you will,” Elworthy said. “That would be your players, match officials, the field of play. If there’s a hotel on site, the hotel would be in that area so it’s a secure environment. That would be your green zone effectively. And then there would be a second zone on the outside.”
While the ICC have yet to decide on any changes to playing regulations to allow a substitute should someone fall ill with Covid-19 during a match, there will be a process for anyone who develops symptoms although the finer details are still being worked on by the ECB’s medical team. Each venue will have an isolation room and testing will be performed on the individual as well as anyone else the medical staff on site feels needs to also be tested. Decisions as to treatment will be made on a case by case basis.
The protocol for people leaving the bubble, being put together by Dr Nick Pierce, the ECB’s chief medical officer, is also yet to be finalised. “Clearly, the more people you have in and out of the bubble, the weaker the bubble is,” Elworthy said. “But at the same time, there are going to be circumstances when people will need to leave. I absolutely get that. We will make sure that the protocols around leaving the bubble and coming back into the bubble are the in the shortest period of time but in the most safe and secure way possible.”
Elworthy said the planning includes the principle that “players aren’t locked in a venue” for much longer than a month before they can have a break and reconvene at the next venue for the next set of games.
The ECB also hope that all the touring teams will be able to practice during the 14-day quarantine period which the UK government is enforcing on international arrivals. “When the West Indies arrive, they’ve got to go into a two-week quarantine period, so we would want them to be able to go somewhere where they would be able to train and quarantine at the same time,” Elworthy said. “But clearly, we’re working very closely with the government on that to make sure that they come in safely.”